It appears signing legal documents in 2020 could prove to be more precarious than in years past.

Ashley Harmon, a partner with the Windsor law firm Legal Focus, says while rare, the concern isn’t unfounded and sees alleged date manipulation in her own cases.

“If a document is dated such that it’s 1-6-20, it can easily be manipulated to look like it was signed in 2019 simply by adding 1-9 at the end of the 20,” says Harmon.

If there is room to debate, it could make for headaches in court.

“More often what we see is an issue of ambiguity so, leaving it open to interpretation and the court or a judge feeling unsure as to when the document was actually signed,” says Harmon. “It can be a huge pain because what you need to bring in at that point is oral evidence… which is going to involve you testifying, often.”

Harmon strongly recommends legal documents be signed in long form to include the number of the day, along with the month completely written out and the year in full.

“Typically, lawyers like to date everything in the long form so for example, January 6th 2020, to make the documents basically tamper proof,” says Harmon.

Of particular concern are wills, powers of attorney and insurance beneficiary designations according to Harmon.

“If someone were to tamper with the date on a will, power of attorney or insurance beneficiary designation, it could actually result in it being completely invalidated,” says Harmon.

Adding complete dates to post-dated cheques for rent will also provide further protection.